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Pears and apples contain air pathways to "breathe". The pathways are microscopically small structures for oxygen supply and are key elements in determining the fruit's health. Researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have visualized them for the first time, therefore proving their hypothesized existence. In apples, the pathways appear as irregular cavities between cells, whilst in pears they have the shape of tiny interconnected channels. These results allow a better understanding of how the fruit degrades after harvest and provide a scientific explanation of the everyday experience that pears are more susceptible to decay during storage.
Apples and pears continue to "breathe" after picking. To keep the fruit healthy, a minimum level of oxygen must be supplied to all cells of the fruit. If this does not happen, internal browning disorders appear and fruit quality decreases. This is why fruit is stored in dedicated cool rooms with accurate control of oxygen levels. The correct oxygen concentration is related to the complex mechanisms of gas exchange, respiration and fermentation in the fruit.
The correct oxygen concentration is related to the complex mechanisms of gas exchange, respiration and fermentation in the fruit. Restricted gas exchange leads to too low a level of oxygen inside the cells. Three-dimensional images of the fruit microstructure help to determine and explain gas exchange rates and when fruit cells start to die and browning initiates. Such imaging is not easy as fruit contains a lot of water and the resolution and contrast of conventional medical 3-D scanners is insufficient.
The Leuven team used the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble to perform tomographic imaging of fruit samples. As
|Contact: Montserrat Capellas|
European Synchrotron Radiation Facility